Copyright © 1996, 1997, Slovenian Genealogy Society International, all rights reseved
These Rev. J. M. Trunk texts were published originally in 1912. Part 8, History of Slovene Communities, contains significant genealogical information about Slovenian immigrants, the places they lived, the organizations they formed, and the churches they attended.
Translators for the Slovenian Genealogy Society have been working to translate many texts published early in the 1900s that contain significant genealogical information. Our translators are not professional linguists, and they do not complete a translation with rigorous academic oversight. The goal of our translation projects is to make information available to the American descendants of Slovenian immigrants.
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Aurora. Among the men who came here 20 years ago there was J. Ramuta from Metlike (Bela Krajina). Mr. J. Marsich mentioned that there are about 30 families and 170 single men here. Most of them have farms. The others have found work in factories. They attend the German church of St. Joseph and the religious life is satisfactory. They are members of either St. Jernej's Lodge #81 JSKJ or St. John's Lodge #11 KSKJ.
Mr. F. Mrva is secretary of the Lodge of St. John the Baptist which was organized on 13 May 1891. The first committee consisted of I. Zmajic, I. Stritar, F. Knez, I. Pregelj, I. Pavlovic and I. Rus. In 1911 the committee consisted of the following officers: I. Jerina, I. Jakos, A. Zakelj, A. Bucar, F. Lokar, I. Novak, M. Mlakar, M. Zelensek, I. Faifar and A. Jerej. There are 40 men and 17 women enrolled in the Lodge. The oldest Slovene emigrants are members of the Lodge. At Easter time the officers invite a Slovene priest either from Chicago or Joliet to come and hear confessions.
Bradley. The first Slovene emigrants came here as early as 1893. They work in the different factories. Many have found work in the factory where metal beds are manufactured. The owner of the factory is A. Turk, a Slovene. The religious conditions are good. From the very beginning an English priest would come form Kankakee and celebrate Mass. No all the Slovene Catholics attend the church where the Rev. Joseph (Josip) Strukelj is pastor. The Slovene emigrants are members of St. Peter's Lodge #62 KSKJ.
Chicago. In the book written by the Rev. J. Sustersic I read that the first Slovene emigrants came here around 1860. They were mostly rather well-to-do men. They married mostly German and Anglo-Saxon women and their children lost their identity and became Americanized. Ten years ago then the Slovene emigrant, named Gorse, passed away, he left an estate of a few million. He was married to an Indian woman who was a seamstress. One day a man, who owned the land on which Chicago is now situated, came to her to buy a new shirt. Since he had no money, he traded a piece of land and thus Gorse became the owner of the valuable land. At the present time two famous Slovene physicians, the brother Tomes, live here. Although their father came from Bela Krajine, these gentlemen do not understand one single word spoken in Slovene.
The Rev. A. Sojar wrote to me that there are about 4,000 Slovene emigrants in Chicago, comprised of over 500 families and around 11,000 single men. They are mostly employed in factories; some of them are laborers. Among the emigrants some tradesmen and shopkeepers can be found. The women work mostly in the hotels. Forty-five Slovenes own their homes. Among some very successful Slovene emigrants, A. Turk has to be mentioned. He came from Crnomlja (Bela Krajina) and was a factory owner. He died a few years ago and left over a half million dollars in assets.
The Rev. Joseph Stukelj, pastor in Bradley, was born in America. It is difficult to keep in contact with the Slovene emigrants in order to provide religious care, since they are scattered throughout this big city. They did not have a Slovene church until 1898. The Rev. J. Plevnik purchase a Protestant church on the corner of Lincoln and 22nd Place. Thus St. Stephen's parish was established. The church was rebuilt and consecrated on 12 June 1898. Rev. Plevnik remained here nearly five years. After him the parish was taken care of temporarily by the Rev. Kranjc and Rev. Krasovec. From 1905 on, the Rev. A. Sojar has been St. Stephen's pastor.
Mr. F. Mravlja submitted a report about fraternal organizations: St. Stephen's Society #1 KSKJ, 200 members; St. Alloysius' Society #47 KSKJ, 70 members; St. Mary of Perpetual Help Society #78 KSKJ, 90 members; St. Georg's Society #960, CFU (the oldest society), 90 members; The liberty Bell Society (Zvon) #70 KSKJ, 40 members; The Yugoslav Society #104 KSKJ, 30 members; St. Agnes' Society #826, CWS, 40 members; The Slavia Society #1, SNPJ, 100 members; the National Knights' Society #39, SNPJ, 57 members; The Hope Society #102, SNPJ, 34 members; the Francesco Ferrer Society #131, SNPJ, 36 members; Lodge #1 SSPZ; Lodge #47, SSPZ, 28 members (women); The Slovenia Society #44, CSBPJ, 59 members. The latter is the oldest fraternal organization in Chicago and had been affiliated with the Czech Society in the days when there were no Slovene fraternal organization in Chicago.
The Dawn, an independent society, has 60 members. Besides the above-mentioned Benefit Societies, there are two building clubs in the Chicago area with total assets of about $200,000. Slovene emigrants put their savings in the building clubs. The Political Club has about 100 members and the Eagle Singing Society has 30 singers and its progress is good. Chicago is the seat of the Slovene Freethinking Benefit Society (Slovenska Svobodomiselna Podporna Zveza) with 90 lodges. Chicago is also the seat of the Slovene National Benefit Society( Slovenska narodna podporna jednota) with 160 lodges and 7,000 members.
Chicago is considered a big city where big city's conditions prevail and we have to add that the religious life is a favorable one. Of course, there are emigrants who are indifferent to the church and some atheists can also be found. Most children attend Catholic schools and are given religious instructions in Slovene in Church. The Benedictine order has six Sisters who are getting ready to teach in Slovene schools. Slovene schools, organized by the above-mentioned Order, can also be found in Pueblo, Colorado, and in Waukegan, Illinois.
DeKalb. Mr. F. Kerzic reported that nine families and 14 single men live here. Two of them have their own farms. The first Slovene emigrants settled here in 1894 and found work in factories. They attend the English Church of The Immaculate Conception. In the village the Lodge #130, St. Paul's KSKJ is active.
DePue. Mr. D. Badinovac reported that the first Slovenes came here in 1905. A. Sorcic was among the first. Most of them came from the Stajerska region. Some of them are storekeepers and some have farms. There are sixteen families and around 100 single men here. They attend the Polish Church and their children attend a Catholic school. In 19007 Dan Badinovac founded Lodge #59, Pride (Zavedmost), which has 26 members. A. Sorcic and F. Groselj founded Lodge #3, SSPZ which has 20 members.
Joliet. This is not the largest Slovene community, but it is considered to be the best organized. From the very beginning, when the first Slovene emigrants arrived and settled in Joliet, they were well respected. They were hard working and diligent and the respect for them is growing. They have been active in the political life, and many of them have been elected to alderman positions. Let me just mention two of them: Anton Nemanic (1899) and M. Kral (1901).
The first Slovenes came to Joliet about 40 years ago, but the largest numbers came about 25 years ago. Among the first Slovene settlers there were J. Cerar, A. Golobic, J. Grahek, J. Loparc, Anton Nemanic, J. Jerman, I. Stonic, I. Rogina, M. Vardjan, J. Parian and others. Most of them came from Bela Karjina and they found work in different factories. Soon many of them opened their own stores and taverns. Many were tradesmen and were proud of their enterprises.
In 1912 in Joliet there are 30 Slovene tavern keepers, 15 grocery storekeepers and a few butchers. Among the enterprises, the Slovene Liquor Company with assets of $500,000 has to be mentioned. The Slovene Bottling Company has a good reputation, selling nonalcoholic beverages to non-Slovene tavern keepers although there are many English companies dealing in soft drinks. The Eagle is a Slovene furniture store, but clothes can be purchased there also. It is the largest store in town.
At the very beginning the Slovenes were rather abandon in religious matters. They would attend the German parish of St. John the Baptist. A few times a year the Rev. J. Solnce from St. Paul, visited the Slovene emigrants. There was a Polish priest with the Franciscans who learned some Slovene. He taught the children and buried the dead. But soon more Slovenes than Germans were attending the German church, so the Slovenes started to think of organizing a Slovene church as the Germans started to look upon the Slovenes as second- class citizens. This was the start of the Slovene parish. Archbishop P. A. Feehan sent the Rev. F. S. Sustersic who immediately started building the church.
The cornerstone of St. Joseph's Church was laid on 15 July 1891, expenses were $15,000. St. John's Abbot Bernard Locniskar, SOB, blessed the church on 18 October 1891. The parishioners provided the furnishings. Rev. Sustersic carefully planned a school for the children, but it was at a time of economic crisis. In 1895 ground for the Slovene cemetery was purchased and on 2 October 1895, the Slovene school was opened. Sixty-four children were enrolled at the beginning. The school building soon had to be enlarged and in 1898 the parish house was built. The Sisters / teachers also had a nice convent.
From 30 June to 2 July 1901 there were great festivities, observing the tenth anniversary of the Slovene parish. But soon the church building was too small, and next to the old building the new one was erected. It is no doubt the most magnificent building in the city of Joliet. The lot was purchased for $20,000, and the building was erected at the cost of $130,000. It is obvious that the building is not paid for as yet, and there is a mortgage. The Slovenes erected a perpetual monument with the church.
Religious life is satisfactory, people are humble and hardworking. The Rosary Society takes care of the decorations in the church. Besides the above-mentioned Society, there are the St. Mary's Society for girls and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Society for boys. Both societies are also very active.
Rev. Sustersic, the beloved pastor, passed away on 24 March 1911 and the Rev. A. M. Kraschowitz took care of the parish for a short time. On 15 July 1811, the Rev. John Kranzec became the new pastor. As Assistant pastors, the Rev. A. Sojar, A. Kraschowitz, Josip Stukelj and Josip Pollak have been active in Joliet.
In 1890 the largest Slovene Benefit Society was organized in Joliet. The KSKJ has 14,000 members (men and women) and the following Lodges in Joliet: St. Joseph's #2, 400 members; the Knights of St. George #3, 200 members; St. Franciscus #29, 325 members; St. Cyril and Methodius #8, 75 members, St. Genevieve's #108, 75 members (women only); St. Mary's of Perpetual Help #119, 25 members (women only); St. John's #143, 225 members; St. Peter and Paul's, 100 members. There are other benefit societies active also in Joliet. St. Michael's is affiliated with the KSKJ. The SNPJ Lodge has about 25 members and St. Barbara's Lodge has about 50 members.
On 26 October 1912 three Sisters left the Mother House in Maribor. There were Mother Bostiana Neuwirt, S. Edita Kostomaj (now in Kansas City) and S. Hugolina Zupan. They were assigned to take over the school at the Croatian parish. M. Klotilda Strnad came from Kansas City.
Besides the Benefit Societies some cultural clubs are also active. joliet is proud of its Reading Society (Bralno Drustvo), Eagle (Sokol) and Singing Society (Pevsko drustvo); the singing society Triglav takes care of choral singing in church and is active in staging drama performance also. The Slovene Dramatic Society (Slovensko dramaticno drustvo) is active in staging different plays. The American Slavia Society has an educational goal and tries to present the Slovenes as highly educated and culture-loving people. They organized concerts, plays and talks. The Printing Society is publishing the paper, The American Slovene (Amerikanski Slovenec). Some good musicians can be found in Joliet, but they are not organized.
Mr. J. Plaznik mentioned that the Slovenes could be more successful in politics if they were more united. The Slovenes live in four precincts; there are seven precincts in Joliet. For eight years the Slovenes were represented by Mr. Nemanic and two years by M. Kralj; other candidates did not succeed. There were two aldermen who were Slovenes. Now there is just one--Mr. Tezak. The politicians are afraid of us, but we cannot come closer.
LaSalle. Our Slovene philosopher J. Plaznik submitted the following lengthy report: "The first Slovene settlers came here in 1887. Among the first were Mr. Pirc, J. Coljan and M. Komp. Most of them came from Dolenjska (Lower Carniola). When Mr. Sebat came from the village of Radece, many of his friends from the same village followed him. They found work in the different factories. Among the Slovene emigrants there are 12 Slovene tavern keepers and there grocery storekeepers. Mr. J. Klemevcic is a police sergeant and Mr. S. Kramarsic is a Notary Public.
There are about 200 families here--all together about 1,200 Slovenes. The religious life has been favorable for about a decade. Under the leadership of Rev. Sustersic, J. Oberstar, P. Perusek and some others went to Peoria in 1900. They presented the Bishop with a petition for a Slovene priest. As a result of the petition, the Rev. A. P. Podgorsek came here. At first he said Mass in Kastell's Hall, but some the Slovenes purchased three lots at the corner of Crossat and 6th Street. J. Stavdohar made plans for the church and school. His parents settled in Indiana in 1856. One 13 January 1903 a contract was signed. The building company of Newfeld & Bocklins from Peru, Illinois, took over the building of the church for $7,936.
Money was raised at social gatherings at M. Komp's establishment and other places. Other nationalities were also contacted. Some emigrants belonging to different nationalities donated such as Chaley $40; Coogen $25; Duncan $50; Hegeler $100; Humer $50; Lackerkov $92; Lucey Bts $25; Mathiessen $100; Paneck $25; Schlitz $75; and the Slovene M. Komp $64. The main altar was donated by F. and A. Cerne. The first altar was made by Rev. Podgorsek. The Holy Family Society purchased the big bell ($200); the Irishman J. Martin, the smaller one ($100). This was the beginning of St. Rochus' Church.
The first Mass was celebrated on 12 July and the church was blessed on 13 September 1903 by Bishop J. L. Spalding from Peoria. Some 32 Catholic societies took part in the festivities. Among them were the Society of St. Joseph, Society of St. Cyril and Methodius, the Society of St. Franciscus, the Knights of St. George from Joliet, St. John's Society from Menoma and Rutland the Holy Family Society and St. Barbara's Society from LaSalle. Croatian, Irish and German Societies sent representatives. About 3,000 men marched in the parade. The main speaker was Rev. Sustersic. On that day and later on there were many fund-raising picnics and socials.
On 30 August 1904, three Sisters came from St. Francis Wisconsin. Sisters Pelagia and Ksaveria started class on 5 September. The new parish house was ready on 19 July 1904 at a cost of $3,060. The present pastor, Rev. A. Kastigar, came on 29 March 1907.
Social life is well organized. The Lodge of The Holy Family #5, KSKJ, has 140 members; the Lodge of St.. Martin #75 has around 75 members, and St. Agnes Lodge #39 has 139 members. St. Barbara's Lodge #KSKJ, with headquarters in Forest City, Pennsylvania, has many members here. Many emigrants are enrolled into Lodge Triglav of the SNPJ, 150 members; Falcon (Sokol) is also affiliated with the SNPJ. Unity (Edinost) is an independent society and so is the women's society, Morning Dawn (Jutranja Zarja).
The Socialistic Club is affiliated with the SSPZ. An Amateur's Club (Diletantski Klub) was organized by Mrs. E. Lepich with the help of Mr. Komp, and Mr. Sebat is promoting music. Lepich is a wonderful singer and well acquainted with music. She is the heart and soul of the singing society. In 1906 John Ivanusch founded the Slovene band which later dispersed, and now there are just six musicians. Many Slovene families have moved to the farms.
Oglesby. About one hour to the South there is a community of Oglesby. Together with the village of Black Hollow (where there are seven Slovene families) there are around forty-nine families with 350 members. The men work in the coal mines or in the factories. There are cement works there also. They attend the church in LaSalle and are member of the Lodge of St. Rochus, Young Slovene and the women's society Lily Rose. Many Slovene emigrants are enrolled in the societies with headquarters in LaSalle.
Other Nearby Communities. Nearby there are some communities where Slovenes can be found, such as Ottawa (30 Slovenes), Utica, Rutland, Minonk, Siderpoint, Berry, Grandville, Standard, Littenville and Cherry, where a tragic coal mine accident occurred on 23 September 1909 and 18 Slovenes lost their lives. Some Slovenes live in Spring Valley, Toluco, Roake and in Marquette. They work in the local mines. Peru is the home of about 25 Slovenes who are independent from the Slovene emigrants in LaSalle pertaining to the societies and organizations."
Lincoln. The first Slovene emigrants came here in 1868. Among the first ones was Peter Sprajcar from Crnomelj, who died on 12 December 1911. He was highly respected. There are about 50 Slovenes here who are members of the SNPJ.
Madison / Granite City. Mr. P. L. Pogorelc reported that ten years ago the first Slovene emigrants arrived. Among them were J. Pezdir and M. Flajnik from Vinica and Metlike respectively. Now five families live here. Three of them have their own homes. Besides the families around 30 single men also live here. Most of them work in the factories. Some are owners of grocery stores and taverns. They attend church services in Venice and the children attend public schools. In Madison there is an active Lodge of the SDPZ, but most Slovenes are enrolled into the KSKJ and JSKJ. These Lodges were founded about a decade ago.
Morris. There are about 50 Slovenes here who work in the paper plant.
Rockdale. There are three benefit societies here: St. Michael's Lodge #92, JSKJ with 30 members; Epiphany Lodge (Sveti Trije Kralji) #98 and the women's Lodge of Mary of Perpetual Help #119 KSKJ. The author of the book stated that he could not find out how many Slovenes live here and what societies they are enrolled in.
Springfield. This is the capital of the State of Illinois. The first Slovene emigrants came here some 25 years ago. Their hometown was mostly Novo Mesto, Dolenjska. In 1903 there were sixteen families and 20 single men here. There are some more at thee present time. Most of them have found jobs in the coal mines and factories. They attend the German church and the children attend the German school. Rev. J. Sustersic hears confessions. The Slovenes are enrolled in Lode #73 of St. Barbara and Lodge #140 of St. Rosalia KSKJ. Besides the above-mentioned Lodges there are three benefit societies. Singers are organized into two singing societies.
South Chicago. This is an industrial town situated along Lake Michigan. In 1903 there were already 200 Slovene families and 1,500 single men living here. I am sure there are more now. most of them work in the different factories, smelts and in the Carnegie steel mill where 8,000 workers are employed. Some Slovene emigrants have opened grocery stores, taverns and butcher shops. The first one who organized the Slovenes was Rev. J. Kranjec, even though he had only $100 when he started building the church and parish house.
The total cost was around $30,000. By the year 1911, $8,000 of the mortgage was paid. Carnegie donated a beautiful organ. The cornerstone was laid on 3 August 1903. In October the church was built. Rev. Kranjec was transferred to Joliet and Rev. A. M. Kraschowitz took over the parish. The Slovenes are members of the Lodge of St. Peter and Paul, the St. George Knights #22 and St. Florian #44 KSKJ. The women are enrolled into the Lodge of the Immaculate Conception #30 KSKJ.
Virden, Macoupin County. A Slovene emigrant submitted this report but did not sign it, so I just assume it was Mr. A. Stupar. He mentioned that in 1902, seven Slovenes came here, and they found some Slovenes already here. How there are about 20 families and 11 single men. Most of them came from Stajerska. They work in the coal mines. Nine families own their homes. Religious conditions are not too rosy. Some of the emigrants attend the Irish Church. The first SSPZ Lodge was founded in 1908 and the second one in 1910.
Waukegan. The Slovene emigrants started to come here as early as 1892. They came from the village of Vrhnika and found work in the factories. Some of them were loading coal. In 1903 there were already 500 Slovene emigrants, including about 70 families. Many Slovenes have their own homes. Some are storekeepers.
In the beginning Rev. Sustersic would pay a visit to the Slovene emigrants around Easter. Later on Rev. Plevnik kept up the tradition. He founded the parish. The church was built in 1903 at a cost of $10,000. Next to the church are the parish house and the school. In the village 13 benefit societies are active, nine for men and four for women. Among them are the Lodge of St. Joseph #53 KSKJ, St. Rochus #94 JSKJ, St. George's Knights, Unity (Sloga) #14, Men's Equality (Moska Enakopravnost) #119 SNPJ and the independent society Eagle (Sokol).
Wenona. It is a coal mining community. In 1903 there were 15 Slovene families and 40 single men here. Most of them are coal miners, although some work in factories. They attend the Irish church. At first Rev. Sustersic came to hear confessions, later on a priest from LaSalle would come. The Lodge of St. John the Baptist #60 KSKJ has over 20 members. Some Slovenes are enrolled in the Lodge of St. Peter of CFU. Some Slovene emigrants can be found in the following communities: Carbon Hill, Deer Park, Dorrinville, Elmhurst, Fermington, Lemont, Levingston, Lockport, Mount Olive, Pana, Panama, Pullman, Rutland, Sparland and Summit.